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Sat, March 28

Read the fine print. You'll be happy you did

If you are not sure of what you are getting yourself into when it comes to putting your signature on a dotted line, don't be afraid to reach out for help. (Adobe Images)

If you are not sure of what you are getting yourself into when it comes to putting your signature on a dotted line, don't be afraid to reach out for help. (Adobe Images)

As we age we often begin to trust everyone. From the guy you hire to fix your roof to the bath-tub installer. Yes, they are licensed, yes they have references, and so what can go wrong?

Well, I would have to say a whole bunch of stuff could go wrong. Especially if you fail to READ THE FINE PRINT. Some agreements are just so long and confusing, no one reads them as closely as they should. More often than not, you just see that the dollar amounts are correct and sign at the bottom line.

Sadly, this may come back to bite you. Every contract and agreement that you sign will often have what I call "hidden" information. When you see words like "litigation," "sub-contracting," and interest rates, you have usually reached the bottom of the agreement. This certainly doesn't mean that these folks are crooks. It just means they may have left out important stuff when making promises to you.

It is those "promises" you sign for that are the ones that matter. If there is a verbal contract along with a written one, you can toss the verbal one out the window. Oh yes, and if you have signed the contract, you also may not be allowed to sue them in court. That is the "litigation" part I mentioned.

How often have you gone to the supermarket to get a sale item, and lo and behold, the sale was only three days and you are late. Perhaps you were just in a hurry and failed to “READ THE FINE PRINT."

Leasing an apartment or house can also leave you in a mess. Perhaps the landlord is just a bit shady and waits till move-in day to tell you that your credit report stinks, and he will require yet another $200 on your deposit.

What do you do? Everything you own is in the moving truck and you have nowhere to go. Maybe moving day was also the day to sign the lease. You are in a hurry. You need to get in, and you just sign everything they put in front of you. Yikes!

Now you find out the landlord expects you to pay water, sewer and trash, and you thought he was taking care of that. Maybe you find out NOW that a $300 pet fee is expected. Even though the state regulates many landlord/tenant laws, you can still end up in a world of trouble.

How many of us have showed up at a restaurant with a coupon from our local mailbox circular, only to find out you are there on the wrong day? How could that be? Again, the fine print not only may say Monday and Tuesday only, but even the time of day that it can be used.

I know we like to think that most people, especially in business, are honest. Most of the time they are. Failing to mention things that appear in a contract is not considered to be dishonest. It is really your job as a consumer to educate yourself to the many written agreements you choose to get into.

Keep in mind that the person presenting the contract has every reason to look out for themselves. If they "go over it" with you, you may not even understand much of the wording. Why do you suppose that is? Often times you may want to bail out immediately after reading it.

When you buy a car, especially the first one, you can really be "taken to the cleaners" as they used to say. Do not think that a "lemon law" is an option. That only applies to BRAND NEW vehicles. If you take it AS-IS that means exactly what it says.

Phrases like, "in a reasonable amount of time" or "can exceed 20% of estimate" are not to be taken lightly. If you are not sure just what you may be getting into, let someone help you. Do not be afraid to ask a friend or family member to be your second pair of eyes. As we age, we can become much more vulnerable. That is the reason that many of the phone scams target older folks.

Be a smart "older folk." READ THE FINE PRINT. You will be glad you did.

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